Today was the final opportunity for teams and drivers to dial in their machines before Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 race. Known as Carb Day, this Friday practice session was quite different, obviously, with no fans inside the facility. The good news was that the typical one-hour practice session was doubled to two hours so there was plenty of time to work on race setups, pit stop practice, as well as running in clean air and in traffic. When the checkered flag fell, it was Pato O’Ward that sat on top of the speed chart.
The Arrow McLaren SP driver will make his Indy 500 debut this weekend after failing to qualify for the race last year. O’Ward qualified in 15th position but knows that he can get to the front on Sunday if they have the car set up perfectly. “I think it’s just been really important to try and get the best car under us for race day,” O’Ward said. “I think traffic running is going to be key. From just feeling out practice and everything, it’s so important to have a car that’s able to follow closely and be able to get runs on people, ultimately move forward instead of moving backward.”
Scott Dixon was second-fastest on Friday, further cementing his place as the odds-on-favorite to capture his second Indy 500 victory on Sunday. The five-time series champion narrowly missed his fourth Indy 500 pole last weekend but has been on an incredible pace this season. A glass of milk this weekend could very well lock up his sixth championship as well. “We had to go through our front wings today just to make sure they’re all close in case we need one in the race,” Dixon said. “We lost some front grip, and we’re trying to see if the teammates had the same situation. Apart from that, the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda felt really good and really fast. It pulls up wicked fast. Hopefully, that’s true when it comes to the race.”
Carb Day Final Practice Results
The 2016 and 2017 winners, Alexander Rossi and Takuma Sato, were third and fourth fastest on Friday, with O’Ward’s teammate and fellow rookie Oliver Askew rounding out the top five. There were a total of 2,507 laps turned by the 33 drivers on Friday, with no incidents to report. The only issues all month were the Turn 4 spins by Fernando Alonso and Dixon.
The big question will be will Honda or Chevrolet have an advantage in the race? Chevrolet clearly had the advantage in the race last year, but Honda has dominated practice and qualifying this month. Whether or not that translates to the race is anyone’s guess at this point. Team Penske will have an uphill battle in order to win their third consecutive 500 this weekend. Josef Newgarden is the highest qualifying driver for the team, and starts 13th. Will Power starts 22nd, defending race winner Simon Pagenaud 25th, and three-time winner Helio Castroneves starts 28th on Sunday.
It was announced today that Roger Penske will give the famous command for drivers to start their engines. It was also announced that Mario Andretti will drive his son Michael Andretti in the two-seater before the race. With Marco Andretti on pole, three generations of racing royalty will lead the field to the green flag in an iconic moment for the sport.
With final practice now complete, the cars will sit idle until race day. Fans can watch the Drivers’ Meeting live on IMS.com tomorrow starting at 10 AM ET. Coverage for the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 will begin at 1 PM ET on NBC.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar
FERNANDO ALONSO (No. 66 Ruoff Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet): “It was the last opportunity to test the last few items we had on our list. Some of them were OK, and some of them we will not be keeping for the race. Now we have a more or less clear idea of what we want. Sunday is a completely different thing, and it’s supposed to be a bit hotter, so we will try to adapt to the conditions. There’s nothing more to test on the table, so it’s race time.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda): “Today we found a few things we didn’t like in the car, which is good and bad because we found it out before Sunday. We ticked a lot of boxes on a semi-difficult day, but I think we are still in a good position for the race on Sunday.“
OLIVER ASKEW (No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet): “It was good. Probably the best I have felt in traffic. I think we are really going in the right direction and made the right changes over the mid-week break. The No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet felt good throughout the stint, and I passed a few different people. Race Day is going to be a different animal, but I’m sure we are ready to react to the challenges and have a good day.”
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 United States Space Force Chevrolet): “It’s finally here. It’s time to race. We definitely have some work cut out for us with where we are starting. It’s going to take a lot of hard work with a balance of aggression and patience. Passing is a possibility, but it is a lot harder than in the past. We’re going to have to be opportunities. I am still confident that we’ll find out way to the front, but it’s going to be a battle out there. I am looking forward to the drop of the green, getting everyone on equal footing, on the same tires and running full stints. We’ll see where we are in the U.S. Space Force Chevrolet.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet): “Good strong finish for the No. 3 Pennzoil Chevrolet for Team Penske here at Carb Day. We definitely have great pit stops. Everybody seemed to be in sync, and right now we just have to play the game, stay clean and go to the front.”
MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet): “We just finished up our last practice of the week heading into the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, and I’d say that the Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet feels pretty good in race trim. The track has changed quite a bit since practice last Sunday, so we spent most of today’s practice fine-tuning some things with the car and working on our in and out laps, trying to find some time there. The guys did a great job during pit stop practice getting me in and out quickly. I’m really looking forward to the green flag on Sunday and hopefully working my way up through the field quickly.”
CONOR DALY (No. 47 United States Air Force Chevrolet): “I am definitely excited for the race. This is what we work all of these day for. The guys have done a good job putting together the U.S. Air Force Chevrolet. Hopefully, we can put all the right pieces together for a long 500 miles. We’ll see what happens in the end.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “We had to go through our front wings today just to make sure they’re all close in case we need one in the race. We lost some front grip, and we’re trying to see if the teammates had the same situation. Apart from that, the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda felt really good and really fast. It pulls up wicked fast. Hopefully that’s true when it comes to the race. It definitely looks like there are some good cars out there and some not so good cars, so hopefully we’re on the right end of the grid. I think there has always been, especially these last few years, an underlying tone of ‘it’s hard to pass,’ which it was in that camp last year. This year’s been a lot easier for us. I think a lot of credit goes out to HPD and Honda. We’re proud to be powered by them. They have done a lot to help that, but also I think we’ve made a lot of changes on the team and the car and that’s helped that, as well. It’s good to see.”
MARCUS ERICSSON (No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I think it was a really good last practice session. We focused on trying to be in traffic all the time and for me to get the best feeling in the car going into the race. I felt like we made some good improvements throughout the session. We really pushed on and tried to do as many laps as possible. I think we did two full-tank stints, so that’s really good for Sunday to know how the car behaves. Overall, I’m really happy, and the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda is feeling good. We’re ready to go racing.”
SANTINO FERRUCCI (No. 18 SealMaster Honda): “We tried a few things today with the SealMaster Honda and made a big improvement over practice last Sunday. I’m a lot more comfortable behind the wheel, and we can actually pass some cars. I believe we have a good car for the race Sunday.”
JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation / SiriusXM Honda): “Today we really tried to work on our car in traffic. It was a big improvement from where we were, and if we take that car into the race on Sunday, then I think we’re going to be where we hoped to be. Naturally a big thanks to everybody – Meyer Shank Racing and Honda for continuing to work hard this week. It would have been easy for us to take a chill week, but we worked hard and hopefully that will pay dividends on Sunday.”
COLTON HERTA (No. 88 Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana Honda): “Practice today was all right. We made some good changes. I’ve felt confident with the car over the past two weeks, just want to look through the data again and see if we need to make a few changes. I’m looking forward to Sunday and getting the Gleaners Food Bank Honda up front.”
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 67 DRR Salesforce Chevrolet): “We worked hard today on in and out laps and pit stops, as those will help us gain spots in the race. We are getting closer to what will work best on the car on Race Day. We would like to have a car that is in our window to make adjustments throughout the race. Today were great track conditions. I’m not sure that Sunday will be this cool. We have run in track temps over 120 and 125 degrees. So, we know what our cars can do in that heat. If Sunday is hotter, it doesn’t concern me since we ran well in the hotter condition. I hope some guys are overly-confident with their cars today because a hotter track could affect them more than us. Overall, we learned more again today with our race car.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 29 Genesys Honda): “A solid day for the 29 Genesys Honda. We weren’t super happy in race trim during practice on Sunday after qualifying, so we leaned on our teammates a little bit and came up with a setup that really worked well for us. It’s always nerve-wracking knowing that it’s the last chance to tune it before the big race, but it’s the best the car’s felt in traffic, so I’m cautiously optimistic.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “The 28 DHL boys got a lot done on this Carb Day. I think everybody understands now that it’s pretty difficult running in heavy traffic. We got through our list, and we’ll try to piece it together from here. We’ll make the changes on the car and let her set sail.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Pretty good day, I mean, beautiful day out here. Typical Carb Day. We ran through some tires, pit stops with the guys, checked if everything in the car was OK. The ABC Supply Chevy feels as good as it did last Sunday, so showtime in 48 hours.”
SAGE KARAM (No. 24 DRR WIX Filters Chevrolet): “We rolled out with a bit more understeer than we had on Sunday. We just overshot our setups this morning. We went back to the garage then and put on last Sunday’s setup and felt a lot better at the end of the practice. I was able to run up on people and stay with them. Toward the end, I got in the gray and skimmed the wall in Turn 4. It didn’t do much to the car. We ran through some fuel settings and different mixtures to prepare for Sunday. We practiced in and out laps and had some excellent pit stops from the WIX Filters crew. As usual, they will help me pick up spots in the pits. They are always able to gain two or three positions on pit stops. I felt comfortable getting into the pit box, and the crew is fast and consistent. I’m sure that will be the case Sunday, too.”
DALTON KELLETT (No. 41 K-Line USA / AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “That’s a wrap on Carb Day. We just finished up our two-hour practice—the last practice before the big race. The car feels really good. We did some balance checks and two really long runs. On the first long run, we felt pretty competitive; we did an aero sweep on the second run and came out a bit shy on our COP (center of pressure) and we were struggling a bit, so it’s important that we keep on top of that for the race and adapt as the conditions change. Even today at 11 o’clock it was quite a bit cooler than when we finished up at 1. So, we’re going to have to adapt the car and make changes during the stops, and that’s going to be key to being fast at the finish. I can’t thank the A.J. Foyt Racing crew enough — they gave me a great car. The No. 41 K-Line USA Chevy feels great, and I’m excited for 11 rows of three going into Turn 1 in a couple days!”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 4 Tresiba AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet): “Well firstly, I just want to say we miss the best fans in racing. It’s not the same. It’s a very different energy here on Carb Day. It was nice to get a good two hours of running. The No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet came out pretty good this morning. We kept making it better, making it better. I’m pretty happy with the race car. I think we’re going to clean it and let her sleep until Sunday because we’ve got a lot of work to do on Sunday starting 29th , but there are 500 miles. The guys did some practice pit stops, and the guys have been great in pit lane all year, and they were good today. I’m looking forward to Sunday’s race. There’s something special about being in those 11 rows of three starting ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,’ being a part of the 104th Running. It’s just an incredible feeling even if the energy is very different.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Shell V-Power Nitro Team Penske Chevrolet): “I think the Shell V-Power Nitro Chevrolet is pretty good, to be honest with you. You don’t want to be overconfident, but I feel cautiously optimistic. It’s been fast in traffic and felt really fast today. I think Team Chevy has a really good package for us for the race. So, feeling very confident with what they are bringing. Carb Day is one of those days if you need it, you use it all. If you don’t, you take it easy and not use the car up. It felt like the second of those for us. I’m optimistic. I think we have a shot. It would be amazing to win this race. It is so special; you just grow to love it more. I’ve been so fortunate. This is my ninth ‘500.’ I would love to win this race. But you can’t force her. If it is going to happen, it is going to happen. But to win one for The Captain in these trying times, we are going to do our best to make it a great race.”
PATO O’WARD (No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet): “I think we are ready for the challenge ahead. It was a very positive day in terms of how we were feeling in traffic, passing cars, and playing around in five-, 10-, and 15-car trains. I think it is going to be very interesting to see how the cars will behave on Sunday in 10-15 degree hotter temps. I think we are ready, and we ended the day very happy with how everything fell and felt. So, we are looking forward to Race Day and going forward.”
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s always going to be about balance. Chevy has got it tremendous in race trim. We are equal to the competition, and we have plenty of speed in race trim. It’s going to be all about finding the balance in your race car the entire day. The wind might change, and when the wind shifts, you might find yourself good in (Turn) 2 and bad in (Turn) 4. The cars are very sensitive this year, much more than last year. So, balance is going to be everything. It’s also going to be about downforce, no question. We are going to have to run close to people, and we need downforce. So, the question is going to be how much. For me, it is going to be about balance. We are going to have to be aggressive from the start to pass people to get clean air.”
ALEX PALOU (No. 55 Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda): “My first Carb Day felt awesome. I was missing being in the car. We had a full week of practice last week and then we had all these days off, so I was ready to get back in the car. Practice went well. The car felt even better than last week, which is crazy to think because last week I was super happy and now I’m even happier. I was able to do more overtakes today in a single run than last week in all the free practices. I think we’re looking strong. I’m feeling really comfortable with the car. We were able to practice a lot of pit stops, not just for the crew but also for me to practice coming in and going out and stopping on the marks. We checked all the boxes of what we wanted to do. Everything looks positive, so now we’ll try our best to win the race on Sunday.”
SPENCER PIGOT (No. 45 Hy-Vee RLL with Citrone/Buhl Autosport Honda): “The final session before the big race was pretty tricky. At the beginning, the car was a little bit different than we expected. I don’t know if the track just changed a lot since Sunday or what, but by the end of the session we definitely got our Hy-Vee / Embrace Pittsburgh Honda feeling a lot better, so we will take a look at what our teammates did and see what they found and put together a great car for Sunday hopefully.”
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon 5G Edge Team Penske Chevrolet): “We were quite far off at the beginning of today. I was worried that we weren’t going to find anything. Then we found some stuff late in the session, and hopefully we have the Verizon 5G Edge Chevrolet in the window where it needs to be. Obviously, we are starting back in the pack, so I tried to run around cars and see how it is going to be. We have really good pit stops, great guys on the car. I think that is going to be our game, with strategy and our pit stops is where we are going to make time up. But it’s every man for himself. It is the Indy 500, but if we can be mistake-free, we can get ourself to the top five.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 United Rentals Honda): “It was an interesting day for us in the United Rentals car. When we started off, it was a pretty big struggle for us, but our guys stayed extremely focused and committed, and we found a really good race car at the end. It’s going to be interesting. There is a lot of different downforce levels and a lot of different things to watch for this race. I think it’s going to be a tricky one. There were a lot of guys close to hitting the fence each and every lap, so buckle up: This is definitely going to be an exciting one. But we feel good about the No. 15 car, so let’s see how we do.”
FELIX ROSENQVIST (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It was a difficult session. I didn’t feel the same confidence as I had on Sunday in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda. We’re starting over a little bit, so hopefully we can just nail it on Race Day. That was a tough session. There was a lot of weird moments, both loose and pushy. We just have to sit and really think about what happened there because that’s not where we want to start the race.”
ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS / Auto Nation Honda): “It was a pretty good day. We got through everything we wanted to, and I think we are in a decent place with the car. This place is tricky -the track conditions change from day to day. I think from where we ended Sunday afternoon to today, we kept a pretty similar car, so if we can do there here in 48 hours, I think we will be pretty happy.“
TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Panasonic/PeopleReady Honda): “I think it was a nice Carb Day. We tried a couple of things we wanted to double-check, and we got what we want. I believe we now are ready. The three of us will now debrief and check the data. The guys did a great job. I can’t wait until Sunday.”
ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda): “Luckily, we resolved the speed issue that hurt us during qualifying, so that’s not a concern. We had a really, really good car on Sunday and we didn’t change much, but the track definitely was a little dirty today. At the beginning of the session, we were a little worried, but by the end, we had it all sorted out. I can’t wait to get the 26 Gainbridge car back out on track for the race Sunday!”
RINUS VEEKAY ( No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet): “We have a really strong car going into the race. I found out that passing is going to be tough. Track position is going to be important, but I think have the right people around to guide me through the race. With this car, we have a shot at winning! That’s a lot to say as a rookie, but it’s exciting!”